Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So...Do you like...stuff?

(Two points, whoever is first to recognize that line!)


One of the things I'm very excited about (at least as excited as I can be, being sick), is that I remembered the other day that I own a food processor. So I'm planning on making lots of dips in the next few weeks. I am also excited about the process of making my own mushy peas to have with fish & chips, because for some reason all the canned mushy peas I've been buying lately are more like solid peas in lots of green water. So I'm going to give the food processor a go.

But the thing I'm really excited about it, I'm getting a new website. And some other stuff.

Long story short, I found out an old friend of mine now runs a graphic design shop called Ironforge Press. And they do websites and flyers and posters and all kinds of merchandise, which is awesome (and look what a great job they do! That is fantastic work, isn't it?)

So. We're looking at sites. We're thinking of logos etc. It's all very exciting.

But it also means I have to start thinking of where I want these things to go. Is it worth it to design t-shirts? I can give some away, but would people buy them? What about those carrier bags? Calendars? Notecards? Bookmarks? Buttons? Magnets? Stickers? Patches?

I know I'm definitely going to do some temporary tattoos, because tattoos are a big part of the Unholy Ghosts world. So that's a no-brainer, pretty much, to give those away at RT or whatever.

But what about other stuff? Is it worth it?

What kinds of gifts/merchandise do you guys like? What would you look at or buy and what would you think is lame? What would make you feel like part of a cool group of people who love (hopefully) a book, and what would just be dorky and lame? What would you look at and think "Wow, those are awesome" and what would make you think, "Geez, full of yourself much?"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bodies: The Exhibition

So in my travels to Las Vegas last week for some non-book related fun, the wife and I took in the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor pyramid. The exhibit essential shows various vivisected cuts of the human body in various states to show how it all hooks together on the inside. While I have a weak stomach for real life blood and guts, I found the artistry in humanity and how we work just under our skin absolutely fascinating. We're all meat, folks... sweet, delicious meat.

Anyhoo... it got me thinking, as any great art form will do. What makes up unique beyond that? Despite skin colors, despite race, despite the made up prejudices of our minds, we are all the same in simple biological form, yet it's that large grayish lump we keep in our heads that seem to be the thing that makes us all unique. We are the thoughts we have, which in the most simplest form to me means we are the stories we tell ourselves. Some of these stories we label as generally acceptable, agreed upon things that we hold as truths such as language so we can communicate the thoughts we have, but at the base of it all is that communication. We are the stories we tell, even if they are not truths. With bodies being as similar as they are, the only place I feel we are truly unique are in those thoughts, and I'm glad that as a writer I get to share mine with you between the pages. That gift feels even more powerful than ever to me. So enjoy my truths, enjoy my lies, but overall enjoy the fact that we have that communication.

Strout out!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Look, Up In the Sky!

Finally -- the candidate we've all been waiting for! Do not read this when sipping coffee.

(For one of the funniest things you'll see today, be sure to go to the Kids section.)

And for those of you who commented in the contest blog from last week, thank you! The winner, picked by random number generator (all hail) is...

Kimberly B!

Huzzah, Kimberly! Please email me at J A X aht J A C K I E K E S S L E R daht C O M with your postal addy, and I'll send you a signed copy of the LILITH UNBOUND anthology.

Well, that's all for today -- it's my 11-year anniversary, so I'm off to spend some quality time with Loving Husband. Maybe next week, I'll finally post that article about cartoon superheroines. (Unless another comic book villain decides to run for office...)

Let's Discuss Your Underwear

"Excuse me, Ma'am, but exactly what kind of undergarment *does* one wear with a bondage suit?"

That question and others like it are the sort of thing that I've found myself asking people at conventions lately. I first noticed this astonishing alteration to my normal conversational comfort zone at Dragon*Con in 2007. I know why it happened. The women in my novels tend to dress to impress (and not in a business sense) and because my editor always insists that Tabitha, Rachel, and the other gals can't get away with wearing the same outfit all the time like my male protagonist does, I very quickly exhausted my own mental wardrobe or rather... my fashion vocabulary.

I have to admit that after I got married, I kind of stopped paying attention to what women other than my wife were wearing and even then, beyond the simple things like: skirts, blouses, high heels, t-shirts, etc... I had no idea how to accurately describe an outfit.

This is something Mark does very well in Happy Hour of the Damned. Amanda is always very fashionably dressed. He's researched real designers... It's all absolutely dead on.

But me... well, when I notice an outfit that I think would look good on one of my literary ladies, I ask. The surprising thing? So far, once it's clear why I'm asking, ladies have been very forthcoming, not just with the names of things, but with background info about what the material feels like, how to put it on, and in several cases offering to show me how it comes off. You can tell I've been married for fifteen years, because in every case my answer the that last demonstrational offer has been to turn bright red and offer a polite, "No, thank you."

I've found myself pouring through clothes catalogues that I'd never so much as glanced at before, looking through online clothing stores, and even paying more attention to what celebrities are wearing. Clothing is just the most humorous example, but the sort of things that I research now are quite strange and varied. I had to look in chakra for the tantric magic, the reproductive systems of cats, the way a bat's wings work... And don't get me started on the level of research that I wound up doing into classic Mustangs.

I guess writing does some strange things to people.

So am I alone in this or have some of you found yourself pursuing research that you would have otherwise ignored completely just so that you can depict it better on the page?

(Edited to correct my previous underestimation of Mark's fashion research)

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm Ascarded

So I have a phobia. I actually hesitate to share it in a public forum. So irrational is this fear that I actually worry that one of my enemies will use it against me one day. What is it?

I'm terrified of snakes.

I blame this condition on my family (and really what can't I blame them for?). My grandmother was bitten by a water moccasin when she was young. So she has a good reason for her own fear. But she passed this on to my mother. Who passed it on to me. I'm not sure at what age the fear clicked on. I recall being in preschool and happily holding a garter snake someone brought in for show and tell. But later, when I was in high school, I was in my backyard and saw a rock. I said to myself, "There's a snake under there." But instead of listening to my instincts, I flipped the rock over. Sure enough, a seven-foot long black mamba hissed and jumped at me. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe it was really a four-inch-long garter snake. But in my mind, it was a deadly black mamba (pronounced ma'amba a la the Crocdile Hunter, may he rest in peace).

Since that day, I--like my mother and grandmother before me-- swear I can smell snakes before I see them. They smell like dirt and evil, FYI.

After The Incident, I've avoided snakes at all cost. I refuse to walk in the woods without making enough noise to scare off any scaled creatures lurking in the underbrush. And forget about walking in the woods at night. I'm convinced--despite scientific evidence to the contrary--that snakes congregate in the woods at night to hatch their evil plans to take over the world. It's like an evil snake summit. And to that I say, "No thanks!"

I managed to avoid snakes for years until the time we took Spawn to a nature museum. They had a snake exhibit and a worker had some kind of snake out of the box for people to pet. Not sure the kind. Anyway, Spawn wanted to pet it, of course. And Mr. Jaye, who loves to torture me, suggested I show Spawn how it's done. Not wanting to let my son know how much of a wimp I am, I reached a shaking hand forward and touched it.

The good news it, the snake didn't bite or hiss or do anything other than look really bored. Nevertheless, I still broke out into a cold sweat and had to leave the room.

You'd think with all this that I'd avoid snakes in my fiction. But my fear of them is precisely why I've used them in the last two books I've written. They show up in descriptions (he smiled like a cobra), in settings (a tapestry showing the snake in the Garden of Eden), and in the book I'm working on a snake actually plays a role in a pivotal scene.

Why would I do this to myself? After all, I'm a visual writer, and every time I write a scene with a snake, I have to resist the urge to check under my desk just in case a snake is waiting to strike.

The truth is, writers have to face their fears on the page. Picking at these sensitive areas (Mark will have a field day with that phrasing, I'm sure) benefits the story. It allows you to mine the visceral and emotional reactions you yourself have had to these fears and add three-dimensions to your character's reactions to them.

What are some of your phobias?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Perils of Pajamas

I can work in my pajamas if I want to. For about the first six months of me writing full time, I did.

Pajamas, however, are dangerous.

If you don't put on real pants, soon enough you're thinking or I don't REALLY need to wash my hair or That Thai food I put in the fridge two weeks ago and forgot about doesn't REALLY smell all that bad.

And then you find yourself barricaded in your office, hair unwashed and guts churning because really, you shouldn't have eaten that Thai food but you haven't been out to the grocery store in a month. Your personal assistant will do things like that, when you get one. Until then, you're content to live on coffee and Kraft macaroni while you create literary masterpieces in your PJs.

Or, surf LiveJournal in your PJs. Or play Chuzzel in your PJs. It's a slippery slope between working on deadline and working on beating your high score in Rock Band.

I find that if I'm going to have a productive day, I need to put on real clothes, get up, shower, actually answer some of those urgent emails that have languished for weeks. Otherwise, those delightfully comfortable lounging pants sitting on my dresser are going to give me an excuse to slack.

Also, you start forgetting how to dress if you hibernate in your writer cave, and only after getting odd looks in the post office do you realize that you left the house in slippers and a shirt that informs everyone that you are MRS. ACKLES in bright pink letters.

I don't have a point today at all. (And don't need one, cuz I'm funny.) I'm just glad I haven't turned into the crazy woman on the block who eats children if they venture into her yard and has 50 cats.

48 cats to go...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Are Brains Really That Tasty?

Honestly, zombies and brains seem to go together like bread and butter, Brad and Angelina, and briefs with poop stripes. But has it always been the case, as this nutritional zombie guideline suggests?

I'll posit "no" and we'll just see where that takes us.

Zombies have existed in popular culture ever since people started telling stories. In fact, you can't swing a severed limb at folklore without whacking an undead varietal of some sort. Why, here's a little snippet from the epic Gilgamesh...

Father give me the Bull of Heaven,
So he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.

If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,

I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,

I will smash the doorposts,
and leave the doors flat down,

and will let the dead go up to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living!

What the ancient Sumerians don't mention is...Brains. Nor did Wade Davis's research into the coup de poudre find that the Haitian zombies hunger for brains or even the flesh of the living. They simply wanted out of their coffins so they could stumble around groaning, and really who doesn't want that? I know I do.

You may blame George Romero, whose 1968 entry into the lore, Night of the Living Dead was the first appearance of the on-screen flesh-chowers, but those zombies were eating whatever they could get and we really can't blame them for that. Roaming the countryside is exhausting and food is our natural fuel.

The Brains thing may have a Southern influence. Where else might you find such a delicacy as this on your store shelf...

But, no. The real beginning seems to be that classic of zombie comedy, Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead. Let's pause to reflect...

It's hard to believe, eh? Prior to Return's release in 1985, brains don't seem to have been a delicacy, at all. No more so than a liver, spleen or chewy knee-cap. Maybe it's because we acquire different tastes as we age. I used to hate asparagus, now I love it and not just because it's fun to leave that rank stink floating in the toilet bowl, either.

When did you notice you liked brains?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bee Sting Aftermath!

So, as some of you know, I was stung by a bee on Saturday. And I am allergic to bees.

The hubs took this picture last night of my poor bee-stung finger. I have my left hand over my right so you can compare the two pinkies; the swelling had actually faded a bit by that time but it was considerably more swollen earlier (my attempt to take a picture myself, using my chin to press the button, was less than successful. The picture came out but the angle was odd.) So you can't see how big the finger actually was. You also can't see the deep bruising at the knuckles. And of course you cannot see that it itches like mad and it hurts to move my finger at all. Which is bad.

Stupid bee.

Why am I telling you all of this? I don't know, really. It just seemed that, having taken the trouble to actually photograph the wound (and that spot on my finger is where I was actually stung; it's a horrible blistery thing), I should share it with someone besides my mother.

But now it's your turn. You don't have to provide photographic evidence, but go ahead and tell me about an allergy of yours. Or an injury. Or something terrible. Share away!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Time for a little seasoning

I tend to set my books in an almost eternal Fall, because it's my favorite season for many a reason.

First of all, there's logistics. Simon wears either a suede or leather Angel-length coat at most times to hide the retractable bat at his belt... also, he likes Angel. The idea of him wearing it in the high heat of summer stewing in his own sweat frankly skeeves me out, so I always like to think there's a little chill in the air. Odd that that skeeves me out when you consider he's often covered in ectoplasm, zombie bits or blood....

Second, the Fall gets dark earlier once time changes over I love that... it gives more time for the creepy crawlies of the Big Apple to come out.

And third, for me anyway, Fall has always been when exciting things happen . It always harkened the beginning of school, new faces, the beginning of a new year of theater in school... it was also the time I tended to fall in love.

What seasons do you love? What time of year do you tend to set your stories?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Dreams and Covers -- and a contest!

So I was going to post about female characters in 1970s superhero cartoons, but I got sidetracked with gonzo dreams last night.

Apparently, I was having trouble playing an obo.

No, that's not a sexual euphemism. I was supposed to be playing this one tune, on an obo (which, in my dream, was a looooooong clarinet, with a doohicky at one of the ends that made it look like a sideways bong). And the tune was divided into four parts, and the first two had sixteen notes. And my fingers or arms weren't long enough to cover the correct holes at the correct time. And someone...maybe an ex-boyfriend? Either him or Jack Black...was trying to show me how to play the tune.

Yeah, I know. Weird. I don't even play the piano anymore.

Second dream: I was coming home (defined as the house I grew up in) to find a man leaving the house. I didn't know who he was, and I demanded ID from him. Turns out, he was dropping off the ice-cream machine that Dad had ordered. (It looked like one of those freezer chests.) So he left, and then Mom and Dad came home, and Mom got all sorts of pissed off at Dad for ordering this beast of a machine without telling her. There was more, but I was sort of distracted by the possibility of making ice-cream. Because even in a dream, a girl's got to have her priorities.

Huh. Maybe I should have posted about the 1970s superheroines. Next week.

What else can I tell you? Oh yeah -- I've got a new cover. Oooh...

This, my friends, is the cover to the erotic anthology from Avon Red, called A RED HOT VALENTINE'S DAY. I bring the paranormal element to the mix: there's a new Hell novella (Hellvella, baby!) that shows how Daunuan and Jezebel met all those years ago. Demon nooky ensues. (Hey, it's an erotic anthology. What do you expect?) The anthology comes out in January 2009, and it's available for pre-order.

I also have a new Hell short story in the LILITH UNBOUND anthology, from Popcorn Press and edited by Elaine Cunningham. The story is all about how Lillith (spelled "Lilith" for consistency's sake with the rest of the anthology) went from the First Woman to the first mortal demon. And succubus. You know, good times. Appearances by Lucifer, Michael, and Adam! You can get LILITH UNBOUND now, if you so choose. All this, plus about 20 other short stories, from a wide range of authors. Good times, indeed!

I have an extra copy of LILITH right here. I think I'll have a contest and will give the anthology away to one lucky random commenter. Go ahead and comment on either of the two covers, or on your own weird dreams. I'll pick a winner next Sunday.

Have at it!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sick Urban Fantasy Author Posts Videos

I'm under the weather today, so instead of a long and insightful post to inspire you, you get some videos of cool stuff that inspires me:

The first is from Disturbed, a band that has been featuring rather heavily in my playlist lately. This video in particular inspired me to go back to a previous WIP that I'd taken notes on and set aside while writing my Void City stuff. I think I've posted before about building playlists for my protagonists. This is song number one in the playlist for one of that WIP's main characters:

The second is something you may have aleady seen. It was part of BBC Sport's ad campaign for the Olympic games in Beijing. I can't say exactly what about it inspires me in particular, only that it did:

Third up in the queue is a video called We Wo - The Half Moon Werewolf, that is an excellent example of how to keep the fun in Urban Fantasy:

Last of all, a video that all writers and aspiring writers should watch. A writer buddy of mine, Jeff Carlson, refers to it as the Mandatory Education Camp for Writers:

Are you inspired yet?


Friday, September 19, 2008

Avast, Ahoy, Arrrrr

ETA: Pretty picture

"Ahoy! buckos. Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Join in on t' fun! Arrrrrrrr!

To celebrate, you can:

learn to talk like a pirate.

take a pirate personality test

find out your pirate name
Join the Church of Pirateology
And let's not forget our friends, the Space Pirates. (Might want to turn down your volume)

And finally, you can join in the debate between Mark and I over who would win in a fight--ninjas or pirates? Discuss.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's My Birthday!

First things first...the winner of the Worst Travel Story Edition of Pure Blood is...


Please email me at caitlinkittredge[at]gmail[dot]com with your name and address of where you'd like the book mailed and I'll send it on its way!

What was I doing a year ago today? I was in London, and I went to take pictures in Highgate Cemetery. I ate dinner at Pizza Express and went to a movie.

Turning 24 has made me think about maturity--creeping up on my mid-twenties as opposed to my reckless youth, I can't help it. I think I'm actually less mature than I was at 20. I was a super-uptight, obsessive-compulsive little thing four years ago. As long as my writing has gotten better (because at 20, I still thought fanfic was the way to go), I'm just fine with not acting my age.

And since it's my birthday, I leave you with that profound thought. I'm out of here to get some birthday sushi and go antique shopping. It's not quite London, but it works.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Internet: Writer Lifeline or Source of Misery?

I'm blogging today, not from a sleek white Apple product, but a clunky Gateway laptop with a screen the size of a coffee table book and heavier than the keyboard half, so that when I lift my hands the whole thing teeters. The lack of balance makes me ill, but my makeshift (makeshit) wifi thingie on my ancient iBook is on the fritz and so, I'm lucky to get internet for the amount of time it takes to send a single email before it disconnects and needs to be reset.

Yeah. I'm in internet hell.

It's probably for the best, as I put together this accountability chart for The Dark Rites of Joe Barkley (God I love the long-ass 70s titles), and only allotted about a month for 1st draft completion. Okay, I've already started it so I don't have 80,000 words staring me down or anything but still I'm looking at 3750-4000 words per day. Doable.

But between this new plan and the OUTLINE OF DOOM, which I finally tossed off to NYC on Monday (amidst screaming and multiple resets of my wifi), I've been seriously neglecting my blog duties. Not here. Never here. I'd send myself into a bout of stress diarrhea if I missed my League day. Too many people would notice. More importantly, I'd notice and my self-critique is harsh.

Anyway, my other blog is really slight at the moment. I've got tons of photos to do a blog post but can't generate the energy to move all of them to this computer and deal with all it's freaky-ass Windows quirks, to get it done. Arrrgggghhh.

So, instead, it's been sort of dormant.

Maybe it's a Twitter widow. I do enjoy that and I can update it from my iPod, instead of torturing out a post with 20 pictures and crazy descriptions that takes me 4 hours even when the wifi is in top form.

I guess what I'm trying to say is my relationship with blogging has hit a rut. Should we got to counseling?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I'm depressed.

You know how sometimes really stupid things can set you off, and just ruin everything? That's where I am now.

Because of a pair of shoes.

Now, shoes are not stupid things. Shoes are incredibly important things. The stupidity here is from me, because I should have expected it.

Every August and, oh, April or something, we get the new Next catalogue. Next is a sort-of-department store; or rather, it is a department store, but with much less selection. For example, they might offer a sort of cool top in blue. And only in blue. There are no choices of colors. Same with shoes. If you like those brown boots, don't bother looking for black, because they don't have them. So it's more like a boutique.

I generally dislike just about everything Next has to offer. The clothes are frumpy for the most part--lots of ruffly calf-length skirts, which swim on someone petite like me, lots of thick horizontally-striped sweaters, lots of shoes with thick low heels--or too fussy. A top I would otherwise like is in the wrong color, say, or has beading at the shoulders that ruins it. Next clothes are like the woman wearing just a little too much jewelry; had she just taken one piece off, it would have been fine.

But we get the catalogues anyway, because I like catalogues. And I do occasionally see something I like. The other day I ordered a pair of black skinny jeans, because I am having an incredibly difficult time finding them in any stores, anywhere. And they sometimes have, like, three- or four-packs of tops for the girls at decent prices, and I'll order those.

Anyway. The catalogue came a while back, and I flipped through it and found the most adorable pair of shoes. Seriously. Adorable. I fell in total instant lust.

And--here's the stupid part--I thought "I better order those now." And I didn't. I just didn't get around to it.

So the other night I placed an order. Some pajamas for the girls. The aforementioned skinny jeans. And I went to order the shoes.


Yes, I know. For whatever reason, supplies at Next sell out. They order a certain number and that's it; they can't be bothered to provide any actual Customer Service and, you know, call the manufacturer and place another order, seeing as how the catalogue only arrived five or six weeks ago and it's supposed to be good until spring of next year. (A further example of their stunning Customer Service is that the items I ordered were supposed to be delivered today by 1 pm; it's quarter to three and no sign of my stuff. Typical.)

So I am angry, and irritated, and depressed. I wanted those shoes. I had two whole outfits planned specifically around those shoes. And it's not worth it to try going to some Next stores, because the physical stores are typically the size of my bedroom and contain a few sad sale items and some broken sunglasses, and that's about it. (Of course having said that I'm probably going to try anyway.)

So there you go. It's just turning into one of those weeks, for one reason or another, and the shoes are the final straw.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Lamocity. I haz it

It's Monday. It's that kind of Monday here in publishing world, making me feel very uncompelled to post today. However, I don't want the world to be ripped asunder by me not attempting to post, so I've decided to open the floor for questions in order to disguise my lack of real content into concern for our readers and their needs. Ask away about anything... the League, writing, my work, my personal life, which member of the LRA I'm most likely to make out with, anything...have at me!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My favorite thing about UF

Our vampire protagonist (let's call her Haley) has roused herself during the day via a herculean expenditure of willpower. All of the humans have been disabled. Her boyfriend, Jason, has been dusted. Only Haley can light the fuse that will detonate the make-shift bomb and close the portal to Hell that opened in the middle of Quinton's Hallmark at the local mall. One problem - she has no matches, Jason's lighter appears to have dusted with him, and none of the Zippos in Spencer's have any lighter fluid in them. How do we resolve the situation?

Vampire + Sunlight = Fire.

Haley shouts a few obscenities as she "makes fire" by holding her hand out the front door of the mall. If her writer is feeling particularly nasty, then her flaming hand goes out on the way back to the Hallmark store... twice.

Okay, so what was all that about?

It's an illustration of one of my favorite things about Urban Fantasy. A scene like that one (silly as it is) can work in the genre. But in almost any other genre, it would be rejected out of hand. Urban Fantasy allows the writer to take elements of the mundane and mix them with the supernatural while taking tropes from horror, mystery, action, romance, or even comedy and turning them on their head... Whether it's werewolves wielding holy symbols, zombies craving chocolate cake, or wizard private eyes named Harry... it works.

So that's my favorite thing about Urban Fantasy, now what's yours?

Friday, September 12, 2008


Yay! I just got permission from my editor to share the cover of my debut novel, RED-HEADED STEPCHILD.

So, without further ado, I present to you the world's first look at Sabina Kane.

Isn't it precious? I just love the "don't fuck with me" look in her eyes.

Writing is a Pain

I've been thinking lately about how I work. Not my process, but the actual set up of my work. I use a Macbook to write. I loves my Mac. It's got a great keyboard with thin keys that allow my fingers to fly.

The only problem I have it the setup of the keyboard is tough on the wrists. Lately, I've been having pain in my right wrist. It start a few months ago with some random numbness and occasional tingling. I put it off for a while, but now I'm afraid I might have the beginning stages of carpal tunnel. I also get frequent neck and backaches from poor posture and tensing up while I write.

It doesn't help that I usually sit on my patio when I write. This set up does nothing good for my posture. I type hunched over my keyboard with my wrist resting on the sharp corners of my laptop. Not good.

Well, I finally got wise. Last night, I purchased a new monitor. A twenty-inch flatscreen that will allow me to look up at the screen instead of down. It also allow me to work on my word docs on the bigger screen, while relegating my other programs to the laptop. Not only will this help my eyes, it will hopefully cut down on distractions. I also bought an ergonomic keyboard and a wrist rest. It may sound like I'm going overboard, but I'm not taking any chances. I'm in my thirties. I've got a lot of good writing years ahead of me, but not so much if I can't type.

Sorry for the practical post, but I don't see a lot of talk out there about the importance of ergonomics for writers. Does anyone have any other tips for avoiding the aches and pains of the writing life?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

LRA Blogging, Lazy Edition

Okay. Here's the deal. I'm buried in edits (I managed to get myself a CEM and content edits on two separate books at the same time. I'm lucky like that.)

I have some brand spanking new copies of Pure Blood to give away, so I will assuage my guilt over not posting properly by handing out free shit.

But I'm gonna make you work for it. Everyone knows that misery loves company, so go read my tale of airline woe, come back and give me your worst travel story ever. I will reward the winner with books! So simple, so elegant.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So I Hear You're Looking for a Book...

I've been a total slacker about keeping up with book reviews on my regular blog. Let me reitterate: Total. Fucking. Slacker.

I thought I'd take this Wednesday to do a catch up and give you some brief impressions and recommendations for some of the awesome books I've read recently.

First up...

Michele Bardsley's I'm The Vampire, That's Why really sucked me in (so to speak, and pardon the pun--count your blessings, I could have gone with "off"). The author's take on a small town being overrun with vampires was engrossing and inspired. She certainly got a few spit takes out of this dirty-minded reader--and you know that's actually pretty hard to do, me being such a jaded and cynical fucker. If the opening three chapters of I'm the Vampire don't leave you breathless for more, you're deader than the title character...Inspired stuff and funny as hell. I'm going to be hunting her down for an interview soon. Do you hear me Bardsley?!?!


Michelle Maddox may have escaped my, some might say, eccentric hospitality but her book certainly didn't. One part Running Man (the book not the dance), one part The Fury (that's a John Farris shout out, yo) with a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome thrown in for good measure, Countdown works on every level. It's an adrenaline shot right through the rib-cage with just enough of the sexiness to keep things greased up (not that I was holding anything but the book, mind you--dirty perverts). Pick it up, now.


I took Jeanne Stein's The Becoming with me on the famous ghost hunting weekend and ended up turning driving duties over to Caroline to devour the debut novel in the Anna Strong series, cuz it's that fucking good. Bounty hunter turned vampire, Anna, is as smart and sassy a heroine as you're likely to find. Unpredictable and sexy, The Becoming delivered the kind of hot vampire action I didn't know I was missing. You know what else? Jeanne's my next victim...er...interview. You'll want to check back for that one fo' sho'.

So that's about it.

But one more thing, Road Trip of the Living Dead got it's preorder page at Amazon yesterday. Just in time for Christmas shopping (oh yeah, I've already seen decorations making their way to store displays, be afraid, very afraid).

How 'bout you read any good books, lately?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I am totally pointing at you

So, I point. I'm a pointer.

I know it's not polite. I remember a babysitter of mine, when I was, oh five or six?--I remember contemplating her theory while "The Rainbow Connection" played on the radio, so it had to be around the time the Muppet Movie was released. That was 1979 so yes, five or six. I digress--telling me that when you point a finger at someone, you're actually pointing three fingers back at yourself.

Which I guess is true, although IMO is it's more then two fingers it's no longer really a point, but is instead a hand gesture.

But the thing is, I don't, like, point and curse at people. Or call them names. I just...point at them ("No, you're not mad at him, you're just pointing"--I'm full of pop culture references today, huh?). Like I might ask, "Did you go to the store?", which is a perfectly innocent question, but while I ask it my index finger just pops out, like the little red button on a turkey. Pop!

The hubs says I do it when I get excited (get your minds out of the gutter. He doesn't mean it that way.) Like when the conversation starts really moving and everyone is chattering. So I guess in that respect, one could view my pointing finger as either a discreet, pretty, silver-tipped hand being raised, or as a taloned wedge which I drive into the conversation.

A defensive gesture, perhaps? Or just a habit, and like any habit, hard to break?

I don't even notice I'm doing it. I have literally been pointing at someone--caught mid-point, as it were--and had the hubs tell me I'm pointing, and said, "No, I'm not," and looked down to see my own finger extended. And I didn't even realize it.

Clearly I have a problem.

How about you? What's your unconscious habit? How do you feel about it?

(Yeah, I know it's not much of a topic. Give me a break. I'm doing sex scene crits at my own blog all week, I'm waiting to hear back from my beta readers on the second Downside book [which I finished the first major edit on Saturday night], it's late, I'm tired, I'm trying to finish plotting the third Downside book in my head so I can start writing it in the next few weeks while anxiously awaiting edits on the first one, and it was either this or I blog about how incredibly freaking annoyed I am that my child's teachers think it's appropriate to tell fart jokes in class. Because that's the kind of humor I want my pretty little girl to think is perfectly acceptable. And I know at least a couple of people are going to jump all over me for that, because I know bodily function humor is adored by some people, I'm not one of them and I don't want my children learning that such things are acceptable in mixed company. Because it makes it a lot harder for me to tell my kids those jokes are offensive and not acceptable when their teachers do it. /rant.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hope for all Inhu-mankind

As I'm sure most of you were aware, HBO's True Blood debuted last night, the Alan Ball series based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by my homegirl Charlaine Harris.

I was nervous waiting for it to air these past few months. Why? Because I'm selfish. Its success or failure really made me wonder if Dead To Me might ever find a television or movie home of its own. A victory for True Blood is a victory for all of us who dabble in things that go bump in the night. And if it's a big HBO success, there's an even larger stamp of social success for our genre that lends greater legitimacy.

Now don't get me wrong. I love our niche, our loyalists to the urban fantasy genre, but I'd love to see it grow beyond what it is, the way Harry Potter or the LOTR's movies brought fantasy to the greater masses. Not just because I want to be filthy rich. That would be just a side benefit...

So what did I think about True Blood? I liked it... a lot. I think it captured the feel of the book series, and much of the first episode covered the opening of the first book in it. I know some people out there won't be happy- it didn't fit what was in their head, but you're never going to please everyone. All readers fill in so many blanks when they read you couldn't possibly capture everything that every one would want. No film or show is capable of acheiving that, but setting aside my own ideas of what I thought everything would look like, I'm quite happy with the start to the series. I'm curious to see how it develops further down the road.

Thoughts on it?
And I'm going to declare this a SPOILER HEAVY zone so don't click on the comments if you want to keep away from them... and if you did click, too damn bad.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Kid Humor

A quickie today, because I'm chin deep in Black & White edits.

Tax Deduction the Younger scored three goals yesterday at his soccer game. After his first goal, he bounded up to me and Loving Husband and asked if we saw. We hugged him and congratulated him. He said:

"I snucked up on them. Heh, heh, heh."

It was the maniacal laugh at the end that cracked us up.

* * *

My kids' favorite joke:

Who's there?
Interrupting c--

Post a funny about your kids, or someone else's kids. Go on, I double-dog dare you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gah! Invasion of the Living Kids!

Seriously, guys... I rolled right out of DragonCon weekend and into my seven year old's many birthday celebrations... the school party, the family party, and then... the slumber party. Our first slumber party. I barely escaped with my sanity, much less my life. I returned after a hard day of corporate stooging and THEY had already invaded. Okay. Okay, I admit it. The sleepover actually went very well. There was pizza (although what it is with small children and wanting nothing but cheese on their pizza, I'll never understand) and my wife had even ordered some of the kind *I* like. Black olives. Mushrooms. Sausage. Yum! My wife loves me.

Then, there was much Wii-ing. Mario Kart was the game of choice though there was a certain amount of Mario Party 8 to be played as well, and despite what I like to refer to as a standard level of "No Fairing" the children were very well behaved. As the evening came to an end and pajamas were donned, my wife covered the dining room table with sheets to make a tent, and they crawled under there with flashlights and told each other ghost stories before the almighty brushing of the teeth and then... the movie.

I have to say that I was afraid of the movie. I was, after all, the primary night duty parent. I always am. Only this time, I couldn't retreat to my office. No, I had to be on the case... in the room... like the whole time. Just in case. Would my sanity be able to withstand such a thing? Would we watch Dora? Diego? Would I be subjected to episode after episode of Backyardigans or Handy Manny? Absolutely not. The movie of choice?

All the kids unanimously chose:

Star Wars.

"Episode One?" I asked with trepidation.
"Episode Four," the kids answered.

It was like walking into a movie theater expecting to have to watch Star Trek IV (the one with the whales) and getting The Wrath of Khan, or opening your chemistry book to find that the text has been replaced with Night Life and Pure Blood by Caitlin Kittredge.

Star Wars... Oh... The horror. ;)

Only one kid managed to stay awake through the entire DVD and after it was over, did he complain?

"Mr. Jeremy," he said, "I think I'll go on to sleep now. I have soccer tomorrow."

What good kids.

In the morning, it was homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, more Mario Kart and Mario Party 8, and then they vanished with "sir"s and "ma'am"s and "thank you"s. What? No sympathy? Heh. Actually, you're right. It was a really fun night. I also got a heads up from my editor that the manuscript for book two has been officially accepted. What a cool beginning to the weekend!

How's yours?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Research, I Likes It

I'm a research nerd. Last night, I spent a whopping $90 on reference material. Topics included: Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, female archetypes, scrying and faeries.

I'm giddy, I tell you. Giddy.

For me, research is how I get all my best moments of inspiration. I'll take a little from book A, a skosh from book B, twist them together with a little imagination and bam a world is born.

This love of research has a long history. Back in college, I spent an entire semester obsessed with the subject of a project I did for a seminar art history class. The subject? Mandatum scenes as depicted on columns found in Romanesque cloisters. Mandatum is another term for foot washing. It's fascinating. Really. (Stop looking at me like that.)

Research is also an excellent way to pretend your working. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only writer who wastes hours and hours scouring books and the web for random facts.

Take the other day, I just had to know what metal the Tartarus Gates were made from. But I couldn't remember the phrase "Tartarus Gates." I just vaguely recalled reading about some underworld gates that were made from some metal not found on earth. I spent about twenty minutes trying to find the right gates, and then another fifteen reading everything I could find about them. Then, one I found the name of the metal (adamantine, for those interested), I had to research who else had used it in their books. Turned out a few had. So then I had to spend half an hour playing with word generators to come up with a new take on that name.

All this for one line in my book.

A waste of time or dedication to craft? You decide.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

This is Some Scooby Gang Shit Right Here...

...and the funny thing is I don't believe in ghosts. But I'm getting ahead of myself, right from the get go, from the title even. Let's start at the beginning, three weeks ago.

My wife and I normally go away for the weekend of our anniversary, but occasionally when it falls on a work day, we'll let the tradition slide. But, we always make up for it. This time, I wanted to do something completely different. Something we'd never done before and after nearly two decades together--twelve of those married--there isn't much we haven't done.

The answer?

Ghost hunting.

In Washington, the biggest bang for your undead buck is found in a sleepy little peninsular enclave an hour and a half northwest of Tacoma. Port Townsend is an artsy, antiquey and--sure--touristy town that I'd never thought much of, but it called to me with its promises of haunted lighthouses, castles and military bunkers.

So, the decision was made and we got off Saturday morning, camera charged and notepad at the ready.

We spent a good portion of the day goofing off in the downtown area (though I use that term very loosely, as the town is tiny), shopping, browsing, eating pie and taking pictures. Like this one, which would be totally cute if there weren't something eerie about it...

We got lost on the way to Manresa Castle, our lodging for the weekend, but were afraid to ask directions for fear that our question would be met with one of the following statements:

  • "You don't want to go there."
  • "You'll die up at the castle. They all do."
  • "They gots roaches!"
Turns out the castle wasn't near the downtown area but looked over it from the opposite hill, next door to the hospital, just in case there were some sort of terrible ghost hunting accident.

So there it is. Manresa Castle. A little history. The Castle was built by a wealthy family in the early days of the port and then sold to the Jesuits, who used it as a monastery. In the late 60s, it was converted into a hotel. Apparently, there are two known ghosts. A little girl committed suicide by jumping from a third floor hotel room and a monk hung himself in the third floor turret room.

Guess which floor our room was on?

Aw yeah. Third. When ghost hunting, it's best to stay in the thick of things. Anyway. The little girl, after all, has been known to sing in the bathrooms on the third floor and even if we didn't hear her, I had every intention to fake it.

After settling in, our first stop was the turret room. Which was, of course, locked. But I'm tall and do you see that transom over the door? Well cameras can be just as good as step ladders and we didn't come all that way for nothing.

Does there seem to be a note on the bed pillows? I'm thinkin' suicide note. But that may be my overactive imagination. The little girl's room, #309, was more difficult to find, as some renovations have been done. We ended up finding #209 and counting the doors back up on the third floor. They'd renumbered. #311 was in the same spot as #209. Why might they do that do you think? Curious.

The ballroom was by far the creepiest spot at Manresa and the only place to put out, at least on camera. We'd heard about ghosts showing up as squiggles of light or orbs in photographs, well. Well?

I'm not talking about the blurry image of Caroline. I'm talking about the white squiggle across the top of the shot. Which, in all honesty was not on that beam. Believe it or not. I am a writer though, so...

After dinner, we drove to Fort Worden, which was a coastal stronghold in WWII and now a state park. Clearly the threat of Japanese soldiers landing on Washington's shores was very real to the folks who built and staffed the vast and numerous bunkers that litter this site. We got there at dusk, parked outside the gates as they'd be locked up before we could get back and started exploring. We found this warning on one of the upper bunkers...

During the day, that's laughable, when people are swarming the park like flies. But at night, when the last person we'd seen was twenty minutes prior, it's a little unsettling. But we trudged on. The bunkers are built into the hillside and are primarily underground with stairs leading into unlit halls. It's been a long time since there were lights inside these husks. We did see this one though...

Whether that "orb" in the upper left quadrant of the photo is of paranormal orientation or simply due to a cheap digital camera, I couldn't say. I'm no expert. I can tell you, this bunker scared the crap out of us and we left shortly after I shot this.

Back at the castle (I'll never get tired of typing that), after soaking up the ghastly wifi in the haunted library, we retired to our room for the "main event." Now, normally that would be a crude euphemism, I'll admit, but as the day was pretty exhausting, and less than fruitful ghost-wise, we tried to get some sleep.


Neither of us could. I kept feeling what my best friend calls pejohos, crawling up my back. When we turned on the lights, no bed bugs. Nothing at all besides clean white sheets. This is what I looked like (pardon the dramatic reinactment)...

The next morning, after a breakfast of dry bran muffins and coffee in tiny tea cups (4 makes a mug) amongst a group primarily smelling of baby powder, we checked out and headed to our primary target, the Point Wilson Lighthouse where a ghost has been known to actually "show" itself to female guests. Didn't happen. Still. Lighthouses have a certain charm that's undeniable.

Which brings us to the scariest part of the weekend.

Back to the bunkers. The Kinzie bunker is near the coastline and massive. A complex rather than the single bunker we'd seen the previous night, three stories deep. We went inside. And dark is an understatement.


If you don't get freaked out stumbling down claustrophobic hallways that suddenly veer off into a maze with only a tiny pen light and a camera flash, then you're dead inside.

Won't you join us?

Did you hear the moan there at the end? I'm not kidding. LISTEN.

After that we were outtie, so fast. No ghosts. Scary moments, sure. And a great time. But no ghosts.

And just one last shot of your intrepid ghost hunters...

Do you have any ghost stories?

Similar tastes?

Because my mind works in very strange ways, I was thinking last night about Lost in Translation.

Yeah, I know the movie is almost six years old, so what?

What strikes me about it is, even now, after those almost-six years, there's still a sort of love-it-or-hate-it issue around this film. Either you think it's a charming, wonderful, beautiful film about two people connecting in the midst of confusion, about how strangers can feel closer to you than your family, about how age and circumstance are less important than what's in your soul (I am in this camp); or you think it's a dull, insipid waste of time, full of vapid characters making dull small talk and doing nothing of interest (I don't know anyone in this camp--or do I?)

But what I find so interesting about LIT is, whether you love it or not really seems to have nothing to do with how smart you are, or how deep, or anything of that nature. You either get it or you don't, but I have certainly heard of some very smart people who don't get it. I think there are some films that cater to a certain type of person, and if you're not one of them you won't like it. There are some teen movies I can think of offhand like this; if you're in that age bracket you'll like it, if not you'll probably think it stinks (this did not use to be the case, back when John Hughes made films, but I digress.)

Point is, intelligent, thoughtful people can still hate LIT. They can also love it (again, like me. Because I love that movie.)

So what is it that they love? What is it that separates the lovers from the haters? Is it simply a certain type of upbringing? Is it having been in a similar situation? A level of ennui? Being such a huge fan of Bill Murray that you'd probably burst into tears if you met him? A loathing for Cameron Diaz?

Do you think this translates (no pun intended) to books? Is there a certain feeling you look for in books, a certain voice that attracts you?

Do you think LIT lover and LIT haters naturally gravitate toward each other?

What do you think? Can you think of any other films that are like this? Did you like LIT? What do you think that says about you, if anything?

I'm really curious about this. I love the idea of loving or hating a certain film or book being like a secret handshake or something. "I'm under Evelyn Waugh," we fans whisper to each other in public, and our eyes light up as we recognize a friend. Have you ever experienced something like that?

Have I asked too many questions? :-) I bet nobody's going to answer at all. You're all just going to roll your eyes and tell me to lighten up.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Blackout averted!

First of all.. we have a winner in the Michelle Rowen contest.. where I believe you actually win Michelle Rowen.. and the winner is... scarltsmmy! Congrats!

Now on with the show...

Deader Still is turned in. I am done with the content of the book, with only copy edits to do reminding me that I fail at the English language. Took the weekend off to visit family, not a lick of writing done, but now that I am back it is time to get back on the horse for book three in the series.

But since it's Labor Day, I ain't laboring, dammit! It's sitting around in my Super Mario boxers and playing video games for me!

To tide you over, bask in the yummeh that is the cover for Deader Still, which I was finally given this week.

Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells